It was the spring of 1978, and Tim Conroy was on top of the world. He lost only two games in his four-year high school career at Gateway High School in Monroeville, Pa., and he was the 20th player selected in the MLB Draft.
Now a scout with the Royals, Conroy admits he wasn't ready for the fast track the A's had in store for him and another high school pitcher, Mike Morgan, who Oakland selected fourth that June.
Conroy and Morgan are two of the 21 Draft picks to make their professional debut in the big leagues, and the only players who did it with the same team out of the same Draft. They are among only four high school players to make that leap.
Conroy has no regrets about his career, which has led to his life as a scout, working for the Braves and Cardinals before joining the Royals after former Atlanta executive Dayton Moore became Kansas City's general manager.
Conway discussed that whirlwind beginning to his baseball career in this week's Q&A.
MLB.com: What were you thinking when you were drafted?
Conroy: Back then, when you were drafted, you were a number. There wasn't the media coverage of the Draft. So you wait for the team that drafted you to call. Or in my case with Charlie [Finley] and the A's, you waited for the news station to call and say, "Hey, you were drafted!" Then you get excited. The crazy thing is I was never in touch with anyone from Oakland before the Draft. The team that talked to me the most was Pittsburgh, which drafted 19 and 21, on either side of the A's.
MLB.com: When did you finally hear from the A's?
Conroy: There weren't a lot of people in the organization back then. It took a day and then I heard from [farm director] Norm Koselke, who was the cousin of Charlie's wife. He told me I was drafted and how happy they were and Charlie would be calling me. He did the next day.
MLB.com: Did he tell you that you were going directly to the big leagues?
Conroy: Oh, no. What they did back then with the A's top picks, was fly you in to work out with the big league club. But there was about a three-week window where I was negotiating with Charlie. By then, Mike had made his debut in the big leagues. When I finally signed, it was late in June. They brought me to Baltimore. I dressed out, threw batting practice, threw a bullpen [session] and got to meet [manager] Jack McKeon and the players. I'll never forget. They were all telling me, "Don't sign. Don't sign."
MLB.com: But you did sign.
Conroy: The next day, I threw my bullpen [session] for Charlie, but I didn't know Charlie was there. I guess he was in the stands somewhere. I'm throwing and I'm amped, and I'm just throwing hard and doing everything I could. I get done, go in and get some ice. My dad and I go into Jack's office, and we sign what I thought was my bonus contract.
The next day, the A's are leaving and they tell me that night after the game, "You're going to go with us to Texas." I'm like, "Well that's strange," and my mom's saying goodbye to me, and now I get on the bus and I go to Texas. We have an off-day the next day. Jack comes to the back of the plane and says, "Hey kid, we're going to work out tomorrow. We've got an off-day. I want you to come in and be ready at 9 o'clock out there at the hotel." I'm going, "All right." I got no clue. So I come out the next morning, and I've got my painter pants on and a Steelers T-shirt, and he goes, "Hey kid, we have to get you some new clothes."
MLB.com: So that's when you find out?
Conroy: [McKeon] says, "You're in the big leagues now!" I'm like, "Hey, that sounds good to me. Sounds good to me." So we go in and we're doing some pitching drills, [pitchers' fielding practice] and all that kind of stuff, and I screw up a drill. He jumps [me] and says, "Hey lefty, you have to get this right." He goes, "You're starting Friday night in Kansas City."
MLB.com: When did you know you were signed to a big league contract?
Conroy: There's still some confusion about that.
MLB.com: When you look back at it, what you and Morgan went through, was that good for you?
Conroy: Well, in all honesty, for me it wasn't, because I lived and died with how I did. I was a kid that needed success to have confidence. And when you come from a little town in Pennsylvania ... I lost twice in high school in four years of pitching. I had no idea what losing was about. So when that started to happen, and all of a sudden I faced better competition, the self-doubt crept in. And if you look at my career, I went from the big leagues to Triple-A to Double-A to [Class A]. I went the opposite way. I needed to have some success at something. And I finally got it back in [Class A] ball at 21. I was 15-4. I got my confidence back.
MLB.com: Did you have a strong support group as an 18-year-old in the big leagues?
Conroy: There were about three guys who talked to me. Back then, they were thinking you were taking a guy's job. They were in second place, so when I get there, they are wondering, "What's going on here?" Steve Renko was the player rep, so he had to talk to me. And John Henry Johnson, a left-handed reliever, and Michael Norris, who became one of my best friends. Everybody wanted to win and to them, it wasn't about trying to learn how to be a big leaguer.
MLB.com: The next time, though, was better?
Conroy: When I went back to the big leagues in 1982 with [manager] Billy Martin, I was more prepared. I had already had failure. So I knew what that was about. What I will always remember about Mike Morgan was he was so self-confident. No matter what happened to him, he was going to go in and shower after the game, wash it off, and he was coming out and he was fine. And the funny thing is when I became an amateur scout, I was looking for that guy. I wanted that self-confident guy that wouldn't be deterred by any type of failure. Because this game is all about failure.
MLB.com: It worked for him. He had 20 some years in the big leagues.
Conroy: It's tremendous what he did. This game is so much about failure that you better be able to handle it at some point, because you're all going to fail.
MLB.com: Your career starts to turn around, you get traded to the Cardinals and then an injury ends it all?
Conroy: Actually I got hurt the previous September in Oakland. I had a good year in Triple-A in 1985 and came up in September. And I felt something in my shoulder, one of those last couple starts. I got some cortisone shots, all the stuff they used to do back then. But it just kept nagging at me and nagging at me, and finally got me in '87. I had to have surgery.
MLB.com: Any regrets?
Conroy: You think, "Woulda, shoulda, coulda." That's a waste of time. I've met a lot of good people. I played with a lot of good teams. I got to play for Whitey [Herzog]. I got to play for Billy. I got to play on some great teams with Ozzie [Smith], with Rickey Henderson. I mean, it was a lot of fun, and memories I'll always have. What I never knew was after I was done with baseball, I was going to continue in baseball as a coach for a couple years and then as a scout. What I did back then was really setting me up for what I do now.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.